A WANGARA business owner delivered a 9666-signature petition to change regulations to protect subcontractors to the Premier’s office today.
Dave Rowe owns an air-conditioning company, Vortech, and said it had been a victim of “corporate greed” while working on the Perth Stadium project.
Mr Rowe said his company had done work for a major contractor, but that contract was cancelled over Christmas and had not been paid, so he had been forced to make 38 employees redundant.
“There’s no protection for subcontractors like me, and this isn’t the first time I’ve lost money,” he said.
His petition, which had garnered almost 10,000 signatures in three weeks, called on the State Government to “tighten regulation around subcontracting” to protect smaller businesses.
Mr Rowe said he and wife Angie were “basically out of business” after giving notice to most of the people employed by the company they started in 1993.
He said the company was owed about $925,000 and would probably take the matter to court.
Small Business Minister Sean L’Estrange said he started working on measures last year to ensure sub-contractors would be protected on sites like the stadium.
“I’m very concerned that these sub-contractors seem to be getting a hard deal from these primary contractors on these construction sites,” he said.
“If a primary contractor is found to be unfairly treating their sub-contractors, they will be banned from government projects in the future.”
Mr L’Estrange said he asked the Small Business Commissioner David Eaton to try mediation in Mr Rowe’s case.
“If there is a contractual issue there that needs to play out between the courts, that is between them,” he said.
Opposition Commerce and Small Business spokeswoman Kate Doust reiterated Labor’s August proposal to implement reforms to protect sub-contractors.
“The subcontracting industry is vital to the WA economy and contributes to job creation,” she said.
“Unfortunately, too many subbies have suffered devastating financial losses, not to mention the personal cost to families.
“Subbies often put their own capital up front and survive on a contract-to-contract basis.
“They simply can’t afford not to be paid for any contract.”
Labor’s reforms included creating ‘project trust accounts’ for government contracts to safeguard progress payments to subcontractors and a ‘security of payments’ mechanism for government and non-government contracts.
Another reform included ensuring prompt payment of retention monies within 12 months and holding retention monies in trust to protect against head contractors going insolvent.
The party would also consider a demerit system where head contractors who failed to pay subcontractors on three occasions would no longer be eligible to tender for government projects.